Mike Kruger and Josh Chatraw discuss how Christians can deal with their doubts and challenging questions in healthy ways. They share stories of when they encountered doubts in their own faith journeys and how they dealt with those doubts. They emphasize the need to look at issues holistically and in the context of the Christian community.
Living without full understanding or certainty is normal and a mark of maturity for believers, since we’re finite human beings trying to understand an infinite God. An intellectually mature life of faith, Chatraw argues, involves learning to live with uncertainties and mysteries.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Sometimes students asked me as a professor, you probably get this too whether I’ve ever had a time of doubt. I know that for our students, they can view us as sort of these, you know, pristine professors who know it all and have all the answers. And I think it’s really important sometimes for them to hear that we don’t. Yeah. And often tell them. The most poignant story I had was when I was a freshman at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill years ago, and I found myself in a religion class. When I got to college, I was a committed believer, following Jesus trying my best to live the Christian life grew up in a Christian home, thought I was ready for life at a university. I found myself in a religion class where the professor very quickly lectured with an eye towards evangelicalism and seemed to understand who we were and said that he was one set of angelical. But now figured out the Bible isn’t true after all, and proceeded to sort of attack its credibility on every conceivable level, from textual transmission to forgeries in the canon to the historical reliability of the accounts in the gospels, and on and on, when and I was just run over like a semi truck, you know, I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t realize that at the time, but the professor I was having was going to become, he wasn’t yet one of the most famous critics of Christianity, really, in the world, Bart Ehrman, who a lot of people know. Now, after all the books he’s written. So there I was, in my religion class, and it was a real moment of doubt for me, and I didn’t know what to do. And I was watching people leave the faith over the class and compromise their beliefs. So what I did is I decided, look, I know there’s got to be answers to the things that he’s raising in the class. So I dug into the, to the research as best I could as a freshman, and really started asking the question, Has anyone addressed these issues before? And I quickly found out that they had, that they had done it many times and had done it very well throughout the history of the church. And so I was reassured in that, that these these questions have been answered. And I’ve discovered ever since that, almost every question, I hear that it’s really not ever new. Almost every one of them has been dealt with in the history of the church. And that’s just one of the things I would say to people is that look, if you have a doubt, chances are this has been addressed. And if it’s been addressed, take the time be patient dig into the research, and find an answer.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, one of the one of the things through the years that I’ve doubted was, how to putt Well, what I struggle with how to put, loving God and a God of judgment. Yeah. And for me, I realized one of the things in talking to people. So this is really important is to have when you’re struggling is to have people in your life and communities where you can share your doubt, and not not simply peers, although that’s important, but people who have lived longer, and who have, who have likely struggle with some of these things, too. And in some of those conversations, I remember realizing that sometimes I had, I had trouble believing that God could love me. And I had trouble believing that God could be a God who also judges and of course, there’s your Yeah, at different times. Yeah. And I realized that some of this was, a lot of this was an emotional, because I, rather than simply something I was, you know, coldly, kind of just plugging in a calculator in my brain, could these things be true? One of the things that I that I, that helped me here was to not simply look at these doctrines, but to look through them to begin to see how, how actually they make sense of the world. So when I first started studying apologetics, most of the stuff was looking at Christianity. And so if you believe in the resurrection, then you can believe in a God who is both loving and Josten. And so if I can just show the resurrection is true, if I can just show it historically is, is has good evidence, then, well, that should solve that right? Well, not really, for me, I needed I needed another step there that was helpful. And everything does, in some sense, come back to the resurrection. But I needed to be able to actually look at through these doctrines, and see that they actually made sense, to some deep intuitions that I had. And so when I when I looked at the world, I had this deep sense of longing for justice. And I found that it wasn’t just me, but seems like humans have that imprinted on them. And then I also have this intuition, that, that we’re called to love. And I talked to secular friends and they’re saying, yes, you know, the meaning of life is love. And so somehow these things must go together. Or can they go together? Maybe it’s the question but then when you look through through the gospel and you look through the Christian story, yes, they do go together, that even that God is judging because he loves a good creation, and it’s sin that’s destroying his good creation. And so these things actually can fit together. And they helped me to see the see the world and even see my own deep, deep intuitions and how they make sense of that, I think the other part of this, so not only looking at and looking through these doctrines, but for me, it was stepping into them, and to live these out. And I do that through, through the worship in the church, through through living out, as we seek justice in our communities, and also seek the love and and and do that in light of the gospel. And I think that’s actually important to remind me of the truth and the gospel in my doubts.
It’s interesting, it reminds me of CS Lewis’s line, and this is a paraphrase, which is that I don’t believe in the sun because I’ve stare at it, I believe in the sun, because by it, I see everything else. And I think that’s a little bit about what it’s like to examine the Christian system from the inside. Yeah. So rather than standing from the outside and saying, Does that make sense, what you realize is that once you stain inside the Christian system, it makes everything else makes sense. In other words, it’s the light that illuminates so many problematic areas. And I think that’s really key for people who doubt, you’ve got to sort of think about Christianity holistically, rather than atomistic, Li, you can’t just pick out one little thing and say, I don’t I don’t believe or I don’t find that persuasive. Is it as a system, coherent and persuasive? And does it answer the big questions of life? And I think that’s one of the big things that can help overcome someone’s doubts.
Its big picture. Yeah. And then allowing for mystery. Yeah, allowing for uncertainties. And we have that when we start talking about, you know, we talk about children, or we start talking about some big, big questions. And since, and, and so right away, it introduces some things that we might, we might have ideas of how this can be worked out, but we can also rest in a good God, right? And so you go to doctrine of God, who can be trusted, and yet hasn’t revealed to us everything. And I often find myself going back to theology, proper doctrine of God, and a recognition that I am not God. And that that means there is going to be mystery. And and to completely kind of do away with mystery as we’re trying to get these answers, actually, I think undercuts Christianity, because there is some paradoxes that we don’t exactly know, all of how things are going to fit together.
Well, it’s actually very comforting for people to know that there’s going to be things you don’t get and don’t understand. I talk to people all the time, who were like, well, how can I believe if I don’t have a comprehension of that? Or how can I believe if I haven’t fully reconciled these two things over here? And I’m like, Well, did you expect to understand God fully and comprehensively, of course, there’s going to be places that you don’t understand fully or can’t answer. And, and I think just hearing from from from folks in the guild that look, that’s normal? Of course, you’re not going to have that answer can be really reassuring to people that can almost take a sigh of relief and go okay, so I can still be a believer and have places where I’m still struggling in places where I don’t fully understand. And that’s actually fairly normal for a finite human being trying to understand an infinite God, and that I can just do what God asked me to do in that in in trust him.
Well, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just selling you something. Yeah, exactly. And so this is, it’s actually a mark of maturity to live with uncertainty, right? It’s not religious Hocus Pocus, this is we all live with uncertainties. And here’s the other part, we all have to live somewhere, we all are going to adopt me, you know, we all are going to have, even if we don’t have an articulated it, we have a certain narrative or script that we’re living by we, we assign meaning and value. And yet we can’t prove why we should be living for this over this in a kind of hard, rationalistic way. There’s going to be mysteries and uncertainty. So actually, a mature life, I would even say intellectually mature life is learning to live with certain uncertainties. And yet Christianity is this big picture that explains so much and yet leaves us with some mystery, but ultimately, a God who in Christ has run to sit and has come to us. And so even as we don’t have all these answers, we can trust a God who in his son has died for us. And so that gives me even great hope that in the end, when maybe this has all worked out. For me, maybe I get more. I know I’ll get more of the picture. One day that well, we’ll see how God was actually pulling these things together.
I mean, isn’t that the story the whole Bible right? Yeah. Uh, you know, you look at Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac, being asked to do it and thinking how could I reconcile this with the promises that the seed is the channel to keep in God’s promises that will bless the nations. But that’s where trust comes in. I think we look back to someone who are the hallmarks of faith like Abraham, he still had doubts and questions and confusion, but that’s, of course what faith is all about.
Yeah, and I find solace in when you actually study theologians and you study the past you realize that they had doubts. Oh, yeah, they were okay. Living with Miss mysteries, they were okay. At changing their minds at times about different things. And they they saw themselves as, as very, as very finite creatures. And I think part of again, we’re doubt can help us is it calls us, it kind of unmasks our pretensions and that we are dependent creatures, we are finite. And so to kind of grasp for this ultimate knowledge is actually it’s, it’s not the human way, and it’s not the way to flourishing, so we have to live with some of these uncertainties.
Join The Keller Center mailing list
The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics helps Christians share the truth, goodness, and beauty of the gospel as the only hope that fulfills our deepest longings. We want to train Christians—everyone from pastors to parents to professors—to boldly share the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that clearly communicates to this secular age.
Click the button below to sign up for updates and announcements from The Keller Center.